ACCLIMATION TO CAPTIVITY: A QUANTITATIVE ESTIMATE BASED ON SURVIVAL OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS AND CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS

Authors

  • Robert J. Small,

    1. National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, U.S.A.
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  • Douglas P. Demaster

    1. National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, U.S.A.
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  • Financial support for this research was provided by the National Research Council through a Resident Research Associateship awarded to RJS at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML). Art Jeffers of the Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, provided access to the Marine Mammal Inventory Report.

  • Reviews by David Bain, Jeff Breiwick, Richard Ferrero, Randall Wells, and an anonymous reviewer improved the manuscript.

Abstract

An estimate of how long marine mammals need to acclimate to captivity would permit more precise comparisons of husbandry practices, yet no quantitative analysis of acclimation has been performed. Therefore, we estimated the duration of acclimation to captivity for bottlenose dolphins (BD) and California sea lions (CSL) by comparing 5-d survival rates during the first 90 d of captivity with a survival rate based on days 91-365 in captivity. Wild-born BD (n = 1,270) and CSL (n = 1,650) acclimate to captivity in approximately 35 and 40 d, respectively, whereas captive born BD (n = 332) and CSL (n = 992) acclimate in approximately 50 and 40 d, respectively. When transferred between two institutions, BD (n = 911) acclimated in the same amount of time (45 d) as when first transferred from the wild, whereas transferred CSL (n = 336) acclimated more rapidly (15 VJ. 40 d) than when first transferred from the wild. Based on results from these two species, a 60-d acclimation period is recognized as a distinct interval of relatively high mortality that should be treated separately from long-term survival estimates when evaluating husbandry practices of ocean-aria and zoos.

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